Friday, July 15, 2016

Thoughts on the Loss of My Local Library (Or Why I Don't Have a Picture Book Review to Post Today)

To me, the library is one of the most important places in my city. I drop by my local branch at least once a week, where I am met with helpful, courteous staff, who probably love books as much as I do. At any given time, I have a stack of 15 to 20 physical books checked out, with another 3 or 4 electronic books as well.

Except at the moment, I can’t exchange those books for new ones. Due to contract issues and disagreements, the library workers are on strike and our libraries are shut down.

I am saddened by the timing and what this means for the thousands of children on summer break, who are now unable to access their local library and library programs. For many, libraries are an important literacy connection to bridge the summer gap between school terms. We should be encouraging kids to visit the library over the summer, not cutting off their access. 

Sure, we can check out books electronically. But can you really snuggle up with your child and pore over the pages of an iPad? Can you study and appreciate the details in the illustrations? Maybe some people can. But I miss the feel and excitement of holding a book. Turning the pages. Sharing the surprise. Reading with a person, not a device.

Workers keep the shelves stocked, care for books and provide help for people who need to research or find materials. They help patrons of all ages access internet services, and are responsible for many story times, book clubs and other activities that build a sense of community and a love of books and learning.

Who puts the books back on the shelves? Checks up on our holds? Makes up special bags of books so you can grab one and run? Helps elderly people in our community find what they need? Organizes activities to bring people in the community together? 

Yes, it’s the library workers.

Why? Because it’s their job. And because they care about people as well as books.

So today I’m sad, mourning the closure of my city library, one of the cornerstones of a literate community. Can’t we find a way to work together to resolve this, for the good of everyone? 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – OCDANIEL

You're probably surprised I actually have a post, since I slacked off during the end of the school year rush. But this book is worth waiting for. I've been looking forward to reading this book since the fall of 2015, when I heard Wesley King talk about it in a writing workshop put on by CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers).

Description from the publisher:

Daniel is the back-up punter for the Erie Hills Elephants. Which really means he’s the water boy. He spends football practice perfectly arranging water cups—and hoping no one notices. Actually, he spends most of his time hoping no one notices his strange habits—he calls them Zaps: avoiding writing the number four, for example, or flipping a light switch on and off dozens of times over. He hopes no one notices that he’s crazy, especially his best friend Max, and Raya, the prettiest girl in school. His life gets weirder when another girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time. She doesn’t just notice him: she seems to peer through him.

Then Daniel gets a note: “I need your help,” it says, signed, Fellow Star child—whatever that means. And suddenly Daniel, a total no one at school, is swept up in a mystery that might change everything for him.     

OCDaniel was written by Wesley King and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2016.

My Take:

Reading this book was a powerful experience for me. I learned a lot about how a child with an obsessive-compulsive disorder thinks and functions. The book gave me a realistic picture of how a mental illness like this is integrated into a person’s life.  I really liked the way the author explained the behaviours and thoughts related to his disorder as “Zaps” and “the Routine.” I thought it was very realistic, too, how Daniel hid his illness from his parents.

Though it may seem like this book is about dealing with Daniel’s mental illness, it’s also a story about an ordinary kid facing with ordinary middle school issues like trying to get a girl to notice him, annoying older siblings, dealing with parents, and trying not to look like a total dweeb on a sports field. I was also intrigued by the mystery related to his new friend Sara. There was a lot going on in this book, but it all fit together and was written in an easy-to-relate to style.

For Writers: 

I’d study this book to see how the author balances all the different plot threads. It’s also a good mentor text for anyone writing about a character with a mental illness.

Opening Line:

“I first realized I was crazy on a Tuesday.”


“I don’t know when it started or why, but some numbers are good, and some are not.”

“Besides, I figured authors wrote even when they didn’t really want to, including the days when they had to go solve a murder.”

Other Info:

Wesley King is a Canadian and the author of the middle grade novels, The Incredible Space Raiders from Space and Dragons vs. Drones

OCDaniel originated from some of the author's own experiences as a child with anxiety and panic attacks stemming from OCD. In an Author's Note, he says "My OCD is a challenge that I deal with every day, but I wrote this book because I believe it can be defeated."

For some fun facts about Wesley King, check out this video at the Lost in a Great Book blog.